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10 biggest home networking mistakes (and how to fix them)

Keith Shaw | July 2, 2013
The chances are pretty good that you have a wireless home network, or you've been asked by friends, family or co-workers to help install one in their home.

The fix: Change your router's password, the SSID name and password (enable the security!) and adjust Wi-Fi channel settings for optimal performance/coverage. If your router provides a guest access feature, disable it if you don't plan on using it; change the password if you do plan on using it, and turn it back off after your guest leaves. And write everything down!

#4 The mistake: Not enabling device sharing options, or setting a "public" policy when attaching a new device to the network. 
For Windows systems, adding a new device to the network brings up a pop-up box that asks the user if the connection is "Public", "Work" or "Home" -- if a user mistakenly chooses "Public", then the system prevents sharing features on that device. This becomes a problem when the user tries to connect to a networked printer, and the phone call to tech support occurs.

The fix: When connecting new Windows machines to the network, make sure the policy is set to "Home", to allow sharing. Check file sharing and network-device access settings to make sure connected devices can talk to other devices (such as printers).

#3 The mistake: Having older Wi-Fi devices on the network that bring down the new router's performance. 
Many users upgrade their router to newer standards (such as 802.11n or 802.11ac), but fail to realize that older clients accessing the network will bring down the overall performance of the network. That old cell phone or laptop that you use occasionally may be bringing down your performance, because wireless systems act on the "lowest common denominator" principle, setting the router's performance to the standard with the lowest possible top speed.

The fix: Remove (or upgrade) any older client devices (especially 802.11b) that may still be on the network. You can also configure some routers to operate in an "802.11n only" or "802.11ac only" mode, which will prevent older devices from accessing the faster network.

#2 The mistake: Not checking the router regularly for firmware updates. 
While this has changed recently with some software that can more easily check for updates, a majority of routers don't change their firmware automatically. Important functions, updates and new settings can greatly improve a router's performance -- especially for newer routers that receive updates once new Wi-Fi standards are approved and finalized.

The fix: Unfortunately, updating the firmware on a router is still a manual process, requiring users to go to the manufacturer's website, downloading new firmware and then updating with a computer connected directly to the router via Ethernet. While some routers include browser software that lets users check for updates, firmware updating is still a tough process for many users, so in all likelihood they end up not updating the firmware.


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